Life is good for Gavin Hosford, a young professional with ambitions of becoming an entrepreneur. With a good social network, a positive outlook and a determination to succeed, Gavin’s life is full of hope.
Just a few years ago, however, Gavin was jobless, suicidal and living in a tent by the River Corrib at Dangan. “I was just after losing my job, and I wasn’t doing well in any aspect of my life, really. I was struggling to cope. I had moved to London for a job, but left after a couple of days – it wasn’t what I had expected – and I had come back to Ireland.”
On his return, he couch-surfed, stayed with a friend for a month, and with nowhere else to go, pitched a tent on the river bank.
“I just went through my money; I wasn’t able to take care of myself properly. I was depressed, feeling hopeless, I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I was suicidal and was walking around with a month’s worth of medication crushed up in a bag, trying to pick up the guts to take them, but I was too afraid to swallow – that was a turning point for me really.
”Gavin discovered the COPE Galway Day Centre on Seamus Quirke Road, where he found warmth, food, access to cleaning facilities, and the support that he needed to help him at that crisis point of his life.
“The first thing they did was bring me in and let me have a shower. They offered to wash my clothes for me. They gave me lunch, and initially just having someone to talk to was the most important thing.” From there, Gavin stayed in emergency accommodation for a week, before being given a room at the Fairgreen Hostel, where he spent the next six months.
“I had already applied for college. That helped me when I went in; the staff were so supportive, really fantastic. I can’t say enough good things about them.”
Gavin was staying at Fairgreen Hostel when he started studying Business Management at GTI (Galway Technical Institute). “In my first year in college, the staff gave me a laptop, stationary, and anything I needed.” From there, Gavin moved to a transitional house in the west-side of the city, where he stayed for two years. “It was great. I continued on with college while living there. I moved onto GMIT for another two years, then had the opportunity in third year to go on Erasmus student exchange in the Czech Republic.”
Following his six months on Erasmus, and with no accommodation to return to, Gavin contacted COPE Galway who were able to offer him a room in Bridge House, where he stayed for almost a year while finishing his degree. “The whole time I was doing my degree, I was under the COPE Galway umbrella and they were great.
”Following one more stint in supported accommodation in the city centre, Gavin found his own accommodation to rent, and has been living in the East side of the city since.
Now 31 years old and working as an office administrator for a small business, Gavin dreams of owning his own business. Looking back on his experiences, how does he feel about it all now?
“Honestly, I’m eternally grateful to COPE Galway and all the staff who were so good to me. I don’t think I would have gotten my degree if I didn’t have their support. I was under the COPE Galway umbrella for my entire degree. I had the drive, but accommodation, and my mental health, was always my challenge.”